Biblical Archaeology Review 31:6, November/December 2005

The Universal God

How the God of Israel Became a God for All

By André Lemaire

Israel not only survived but thrived in exile. Indeed, Israelite Yahwisma became universal monotheism in the Babylonian Exile.

In the preceding article, Professor Seymour Gitin explains why the Philistines, unlike the Israelites, did not survive the Babylonian Exile, although their cities were destroyed by the same Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Israelite Temple. Professor Gitin suggests that culture made all the difference. Perhaps so, but I think we can be more specific in the case of the Israelites.

One factor in Israel’s survival was that her religious leadership appears to have followed her people into exile. Ezekiel, for example, was both priest and prophet (Ezekiel 1:3). He answers questions of the elders, the traditional leaders and heads of the community, who gathered around him (Ezekiel 8:1; 14:1; 20:1). The Israelite community thus retained its religious structure.

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